McAfee antivirus program goes berserk, freezes PCs

April 21, 2010
Copies of Microsoft's Windows XP Pro. A routine anti-virus update from Web security firm McAfee confused a valid Windows file with a virus on Wednesday, disrupting an unknown number of computers around the world.

(AP) -- Computers in companies, hospitals and schools around the world got stuck repeatedly rebooting themselves Wednesday after an antivirus program identified a normal Windows file as a virus.

McAfee Inc. confirmed that a software update it posted at 9 a.m. Eastern time caused its antivirus program for corporate customers to misidentify a harmless file. It has posted a replacement update for download.

"We are not aware of significant impact on consumers and believe we have effectively limited such occurrence," the company said in a statement.

Online posters begged to differ, saying thousands of computers running Windows XP with Service Pack 3 were rendered useless.

About a third of the hospitals in Rhode Island were forced to stop treating patients without traumas in emergency rooms. The hospitals also postponed some elective surgeries, said Nancy Jean, a spokeswoman for the Lifespan system of hospitals. The system includes Rhode Island Hospital, the state's largest, and Newport Hospital, the only hospital on Aquidneck Island.

Jean said patients who required emergency care for gunshot wounds, car accidents, blunt trauma and other potentially fatal injuries were still being admitted to the emergency rooms.

In Kentucky, state police were told to shut down the computers in their patrol cars as technicians tried to fix the problem. The National Science Foundation headquarters in Arlington, Va., also lost computer access.

Peter Juvinall, systems administrator at Illinois State University in Normal, said that when the first computer started rebooting it quickly became evident that it was a major problem, affecting dozens of computers at the College of Business alone.

"I originally thought it was a virus," he said. When the tech support people concluded McAfee's update was to blame, they stopped further downloads of the faulty software update and started shuttling from computer to computer to get them working again.

Such personal attention to each PC from a technician appeared to be the only way to fix the problem because the computers weren't receptive to remote software updates when stuck in the reboot cycle. That slowed the recovery.

Intel Corp. appeared to be among the victims, according to employee posts on Twitter. Intel did not immediately return calls for comment.

Explore further: Microsoft to release free antivirus PC software

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18 comments

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Caliban
1 / 5 (4) Apr 21, 2010
Perhaps it is actually an unacknowledged Hack -as in "Testing! 1-2-3, testing!". Spose we'll have to wait and see....
MorituriMax
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2010
No! Gasp! Couldn't update the computers that were stuck in a reboot-loop?! That's unpossible!
paulthebassguy
3.7 / 5 (6) Apr 21, 2010
Haha, I love the ad on this page - Trend Internet Security Pro.
ormondotvos
2.5 / 5 (6) Apr 21, 2010
Apple Snow Leopard. I dropped Windoze five trouble-free years ago. You can too. Get a Mac Mini.
arni0202
3.2 / 5 (6) Apr 21, 2010
My Ubuntu 10.04 laptop doesn't keep rebooting itself ;)
zbarlici
3.3 / 5 (7) Apr 21, 2010
dammit ormo! Quit telling the masses about mac, or rather would you have it so that it becomes mainstream which would give hackers a reason to start making viruses for the OS>??? Shuddup man.
Yelmurc
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 21, 2010
dammit ormo! Quit telling the masses about mac, or rather would you have it so that it becomes mainstream which would give hackers a reason to start making viruses for the OS>??? Shuddup man.


I agree, there is no mac move along windows users
ealex
not rated yet Apr 22, 2010
Boy oh boy, the guy(s) who f'ed up on this one are gonna get it boy.

It's not a reboot loop, you've just entered the Matrix.
Newbeak
5 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2010
I now have F-Secure,supplied free by my ISP.If I need technical assistance,it is a local phone call away.I had McAfee since I went online in 97,and towards the end it was royal pain in the ass dealing with them,if you could get through on their 800 number..
SMMAssociates
not rated yet Apr 24, 2010
I'm a Clipper developer. That's an ancient DOS-based dBaseIII/IV compiler. It requires files with ".LNK" extension to control the linking step to produce an executable.

One of my choices for "system analysis" (like McAfee) decided that these files, which share the same extension that Windows uses for icons, were invalid, and was all set to destroy ALL of them - several thousand - until I noticed. (Good thing it asked!)

The point being that any piece of software that's supposed to "analyze" your whole system, whether it's an A/V or whatever, can decide that something is bogus, and unless inhibited (and unless the user has some idea!), can do a lot of damage. You can't expect the developers to know about all of the potential pitfalls. But it's kinda trivial to know if you're about to kill a Windows-critical file....

(I'd switch to Linux, but my clients are not about to....)
kaypee
5 / 5 (2) Apr 24, 2010
Hmmm...how eerily similar to paying self-interested profit-motivated non-military commandos to keep us safe from terrorists.
Paradox
4.7 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2010
When CrapAfee is running normally, it just drains all resources on your computer anyway.... and doesn't even stop viruses.
EvgenijM
5 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2010
Linux user/root + repos system is a lot safer, then always sitting on administrator rights account on windows.
PinkElephant
1 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2010
After using Norton, McAffee, and some other thing I can't recall the name of for a few years, I've settled on Kaspersky after reading some glowing tech reviews. And I've been a very happy customer for the last 4 years. Got my whole family on it (with a group license.) Convinced the IT at work to switch to it, as well. It's very nice: comprehensive, always up to date, and virtually no drain on resources. Highly recommend it, in case anyone didn't figure that out yet :-)

On the other hand, it just kills me that we still don't have a simple separation of OS from user space. OS files should be immutable and read-only, at HARDWARE level. The only way to update the OS, ought to be through a flash command in the boot-up BIOS screen. Let the user programs and files get infected or corrupted in the absence of AV protection, but it's unforgivable that critical OS infrastructure is so easily accessed and modified by malware -- or can be so easily hijacked by hooked-in "utilities".
Skepticus_Rex
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2010
Apple Snow Leopard. I dropped Windoze five trouble-free years ago. You can too. Get a Mac Mini.


While I have used both Windows and the Mac OS for many years, having a Mac will not necessarily prevent problems when they do arise.

Why, just a few years ago Apple made a security update to OS X available that rendered all internet connections inoperable on every single system which had the update installed. We had literally hundreds of computers cease being able to reach the network! Several labs were essentially shut down for days because of the problem.

We ended up having to load a downloadable update onto a PC, place it onto a Zip disk and install it manually on every machine that had been updated just so that another patch could be installed via Apple Software Update.

And, don't get me started on the so-called virus-free nature of the Mac OS!

I once had to clean 50-plus odd viruses from the Macs in a lab when it had been found that they were acting strangely.
Skepticus_Rex
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2010
I hate Kaspersky. It slowed down several systems to a crawl because it interfered with some of our specialized software drivers. Took off the Kaspersky and the systems were "zippy" again. AVG was an option but then mysterious BSODs kept happening that completely went away when that was uninstalled.

McAfee had for the most part worked for us in the labs although the least of such problems have come from Norton. We also had some virii slip through with McAfee but Norton always caught them all. Well, at least that has been our experience. Everyone else's mileage may vary. :)
PinkElephant
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2010
I hate Kaspersky. It slowed down several systems to a crawl because it interfered with some of our specialized software drivers.
That might've been easily resolvable, simply by adding an exclusion rule. For instance, I routinely exclude my compiler/linker binaries and the entire source tree for my projects, from real-time scans, to avoid unnecessary slowdowns. (There's still a full drive scan every day at midnight, for good measure.) I find Kaspersky to be supremely customizable, and very thorough in its coverage options. But it's true, YMMV...
Skepticus_Rex
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2010
Nah, we tried exclusions. We had to exclude so much that it became dangerous and not worth the trouble of having it there in the first place. It was easier and safer to replace the product.

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